Sending woman 'home' to Mexico truly un-American
The Arizona Republic
July 9, 2005

Laurie Roberts

Her favorite food is pancakes with strawberries and cream, which explains her favorite restaurant: IHOP. Her favorite TV show is Friends. She loves the movie Titanic for the romance, and for reasons I can't quite figure out, she, at 20 years old, loves the Beatles.

She is what you might call the all-American girl. In every way but one, that is.

By month's end, Yuliana Huicochea will likely be ordered to leave the only country she's ever known, exiled to a place she's never been. At least, not since she was a baby.

Yuliana is worried and understandably so.

"I don't have anywhere to go," she told me. "I don't know any other country. I've always lived here since I was 4 years old. I consider this my country. I consider myself an American."

So why, you might wonder, is Yuliana being given the bum's rush across the border? What offense has she given, what crimes did she commit that this country will be a stronger, safer place once she has left it?

She had the audacity at 4 years old to enter this country illegally.

Yuliana grew up in Phoenix. She's never been in trouble. She learned the Pledge of Allegiance in kindergarten, got good grades in school and even graduated a year early from Wilson Charter High School so she could pursue her dream of one day becoming a lawyer. She might never have drawn the attention of the Department of Homeland Security but for the fact that she exhibited a bit too much ingenuity and good old-fashioned American can-do spirit. In 2002, she was part of a team at Wilson that spent nine months designing and building a solar-powered boat. So good was their work that they were invited to an international competition in upstate New York.

Yuliana and three others on the team caught the eye of immigration authorities when their teacher took them to Niagara Falls on the U.S.-Canadian border.

Like Yuliana, Jaime Damian, Luis Nava and Oscar Corona were babies when they were brought here illegally from Mexico. And like her, they face the very real prospect of being sent to a country they don't know when they go before U.S. Immigration Judge John Richardson on July 21.

Richardson has twice put off deporting the four, in hopes that Congress might pass a law allowing them to stay. But that hasn't happened.

The four, and others like them, are caught center stage in a national uproar over illegal immigration where it seems any more that there is black and there is white and nothing in between. Either you are here legally or you are not.

Unfortunately, like our immigration laws, that sort of thinking doesn't work. Sending Yuliana to Mexico would be like sending you or me to a foreign country.

Like it or not and through no fault of her own, Yuliana is an American. Blame the parents who brought her here. Blame a corrupt country that encourages its citizens to flee north. Blame U.S. politicians who have long looked the other way and businesses that crave cheap labor.

Blame them all and certainly, fix our broken border. But it strikes me as decidedly un-American to punish Yuliana for a crime she didn't commit.

Like it or not, we've got a generation of children who have grown up American, hundreds of thousands who were brought here as babies and now they're stuck in a no man's land between a country they don't know and a country that doesn't want them.

And so, in a few weeks, Yuliana must go, proving that there is law and there is justice. And sometimes the one has nothing to do with the other.

Reach Roberts at or at (602) 444-8635.